June 7, 2022
As a culture expert, I frequently remind leaders that their organization has a culture, even if they don’t pay attention to it. Cultures that are ignored, of course, tend to evolve in ways that aren’t very effective, but when you intentionally design your culture, you have the opportunity to align it with what makes your people and organization successful.
That same principle applies to individuals and personality types. Every individual has a personality type or style, even if they don’t pay attention to it, but leaders who are aware of their own default modes have the opportunity to intentionally leverage their natural strengths, as well as push themselves out of their comfort zones when the situation warrants it.
Self-knowledge is a must-have if you want to be an effective leader. That’s why we frequently introduce the DiSC model to our clients. It’s a personality typing system that is focused specifically on workplace behaviors. The assessment is easy to take, and the reports are both easy to understand and remember — which means people can more easily apply their knowledge in workplace situations.
DiSC is an acronym that stands for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness – and everyone’s personality will fall into one of those buckets. As is the case with other typing systems, you will always see a little of yourself in all of the categories, but as you dig into it, you’ll start to see that one of them is primary for you.
There’s a lot of nuance to the differences, but if you’re not familiar with the system, the simplest way to describe it is based on two scales: fast/slow and skeptical/accepting. The D and I types tend to be faster than S or C, and D and C tend to be more skeptical, whereas I and S types are more accepting.
Knowing where you and your teammates fall in this system can have a big impact on team and organizational performance, whether that means illustrating breakdowns in communication or helping resolve conflicts.
For example, I worked with a management team where nearly all of the VPs felt that the CEO was a micromanager. It got to the point where they were avoiding contact with her because they didn’t want her telling them how to run their programs. But if they had made their personality styles more explicit, this conflict would disappear.
The CEO was on the D/C side of the DiSC circle, which meant she was very much on the “skeptical” side. People with this DiSC profile can be very challenging of other people’s ideas, but not because they disagree with them or feel like they should be making the decision. They simply believe all ideas should be challenged, because that will generate better solutions in the end. In this case, the CEO would ask about other approaches or different solutions, not because she thought that’s what the VPs should do – she simply wanted to make sure that the VPs were considering all the angles as they made their decisions.
But this particular team was not aware of their personality style differences, so they spent months operating inefficiently, with mounting frustration, before I was brought in to facilitate a management team retreat and help them clear the air. If the team had some awareness of their own styles, they probably would have solved this problem on their own. That’s the power of self-knowledge – problems get solved more easily and more quickly.
DiSC can also be particularly useful in managing internal conflict. The different styles have noticeably different approaches to conflict situations, so successful conflict resolution often requires flexibility and intentionally moving outside of your comfort zone.
As mentioned above, D and I styles tend to be faster-paced than S and C styles. There are many conflict situations that require a quick resolution, like dealing with a customer or member complaint at an in-person event. If your style is to dig deeper, explore all the options, and cover all the angles, you’ll need to adjust your style at that moment to be successful.
Similarly, the D and I styles will need to adjust their styles when confronting a deep and complex conflict where a slower pace and deeper exploration are required for the conflict to be resolved.
So if you want to improve your impact as a leader, you should invest in understanding how personality styles are impacting the way you’re getting work done inside your organization. PROPEL and Sidecar are teaming up to offer a four-week bootcamp that can launch you on that journey. As part of the course, you’ll take the DiSC assessment and get a comprehensive, personalized report. Then in four one-hour sessions, we’ll explore different ways you can apply that self-knowledge and improve your leadership. We’ll specifically dig into how DiSC can improve communication, conflict, and even help you create an organizational culture where all types can be successful.
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Jamie is an author and culture consultant at Human Workplaces who uses culture analytics and customized consulting to drive growth, innovation, and engagement for organizations around the world. He brings 25 years of experience in conflict resolution, generational differences and culture change to his work with leaders leveraging the power of culture. The author of two books — "When Millennials Take Over" and "Humanize" — Jamie has a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in OD from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.